My wife Hanna and I have been traveling to Anglers Inn International’s El Salto location since 2009. Every time we go through the gates, she exhales, and says “Home!” to no one in particular. We’ve become friends with Billy and Magalhi Chapman, the owners, and last year Billy asked Hanna to put together a trip for women. That was good news, because although we knew it was going to be a challenge, we firmly believe that every bass angler, no matter how experienced, should get to fish on a lake so perfect and fertile that it makes it hard to go anywhere else afterward. It doesn't hurt that the food and service are great, too. It is our Disney World.
Those of us who have been there before sometimes take it for granted, just as hard-charging tournament anglers sometimes take the sport as a whole for granted. Therefore, it was nice to see the lake, and my pastime, through fresh eyes.
In the end, we opened the trip up to couples, and we had four great ladies – Cheryl Lynn Craig, Holly Blandford, Kathy Boss and Glenna Jameson – join their significant others on the trip. They were all a joy to be around, and I could write a column singing the praises of any of them. Today, though, I’m just going to talk about the four women who came without male companionship. Each one of them, to a man … I mean, woman … was exceptional. They varied in levels of fishing experience, but in terms of enthusiasm they were all A+ overachievers.
Editor's note: See photos from the El Salto trip.
First there was Michelle Skelley of Tennessee who brought her sister Lisa as a birthday present. [Author’s note: Michelle, if you’re looking for more siblings, I’m available.] She’d caught a total of 10 bass in her life previously, the largest less than 2 pounds. That didn’t last long. With a dedication to the Senko exceeded only by that of Gary Yamamoto himself, Michelle caught dozens of hard-fighting Mexican bass, including two 8-plus-pound beasts in a single morning. Lisa, a more experienced angler, caught the biggest bass of any of them, a 9 1/2-pound brute, also a personal best. In fact all four of the ladies caught the biggest bass of their lives so far.
Then there were my two new friends from Wisconsin. Gail Milbrath, a highly decorated schoolteacher, got so excited when she caught her first 5-pounder that she did a dance in the boat and smothered her guide with a massive hug. The enthusiasm was contagious, because fellow cheesehead Sarah Englebert also kept us in stitches recounting her first topwater bass and her first Rat-L-Trap bass. And she pretty much whipped my butt with the Senko on the afternoon we fished together.
These women were the first ones on the water every day and the last ones off. They savored every cast and every sip of each margarita. It’s a feeling that I don’t get when I travel with most of my guy friends, who are too worried about sacking a 10-pound bass or a 30-pound limit and get truly agitated if they don’t. (I might’ve fallen into that category once or twice in this lifetime.) These women didn’t seem to care if they caught ten 2-pounders or two 10-pounders as long as they were out there chasing it.
The perception is that Mexico is dangerous. It’s not, at least not any more dangerous than traveling any other place domestically or internationally. The perception is that solo international travel is daunting. It shouldn’t be.
I didn’t put stock in either of those misconceptions before the trip, but I might’ve bought into the idea that many women only fish to be with a man, or to gain attention. For that chauvinism, I apologize. I realized exactly how wrong I was when I stumbled to the breakfast table one morning at 5 a.m., bleary-eyed with the stink of a few too many Pacificos the night before, and happened upon these five women (including my wife) spiritedly discussing proper rigging and hooksetting techniques for a wacky worm. I knew right then that my preconceived notions were horribly wrong, at least with respect to this particular quintet. They were, as the hairy legged male bass clubbers say, “All ate up with it.”
Every trip to Anglers Inn El Salto is a great one. From a fishing perspective, this was one of our best. But in terms of reinvigorating my own excitement for the sport and its future, there’s no doubt that this one stood head and shoulders above the rest. The only downside is that now Hanna has a whole bunch of female fishing buddies, and they have the know-how and the energy to leave me behind next time.